Trying to get techy, get phone reception, and get the WWW is so incredibly difficult in the sticks of Northern Nicaragua. We’ve spent so many hours trying to figure it out, trying different modems, sticks, smart phones, SIM cards, whats-its and thingies, that we have almost gone crazy. Usually we go to “Chinny” (Chinandega, aka. Chinny-Chinny-Dang-Dang), where we sit in the cool AC and enjoy tacos chinos (Chinese Tacos = egg rolls) while using their WiFi until a thunderstorm comes and stops the fun (the power goes out along with the internet) or they turn it off after 6 hours because they are tired of looking at us.
Recently we decided to go another level of Hi-Tech, not quite ready to spring for the $2000 for satellite internet (plus $400/month), and boost our cell reception, hoping that that would improve our GPRS/3G internet system (uses a SIM card like a cell phone). So, we brought a signal booster down from the US and A. It claimed it could take any meager cell phone signal and turbo-power it. We were hoping to go from 0-1 bar of reception to 3 or 4. We chose the Wilson Electronics DB Pro 65 db dual band (for Nica; 900 and 1800 MHz) which comes with a booster, inside panel antenna, outside antenna (omni-directional) and a couple sections of nice coaxial cable (RG6 is what you need).
First we beta-tested the set up using a piece of 12 foot drift-bamboo we found on the beach, noticing that the locals had their TV and radio antennas on bamboo. Immediately, we got results with 2-3 bars of reception, woohoo! But trying to use the internet stick was still really annoying and the signal dropped a lot. The directions said we had to have the inside antenna 7’ off the floor and the outside antenna at least 15’ ABOVE the inside antenna, so it was clear that a 12’ bamboo piece wasn’t cutting it. We needed more height, a total of 22’ at least!
We happened to be starting construction of our first cabana (see blog posts titled “Building in Nicaragua”) around the same time and had to go select and cut the pieces of eucalyptus for the beams and roof trusses.
At the plantation we started eyeing some of the super tall skinny eucalyptus saplings for the antenna job. We explained to the wood cutters that we needed the longest, skinniest piece they could find and we wound up with an awesome 30’ piece that was only as wide as a beer can near its base. When we got it home it needed to be de-barked using the local beating method and then dried because it was full of rainy-season water and was super heavy. We had to trim a few feet off the top but finally ended up with a sweet, tall 25’ pole. Our phone reception went to 5 bars solid, oh yeah! Our internet works better and the problems we can now attribute to Movistar Nicaragua’s service, not our cell reception. Plus the birds love the new perch!